PETA Boss Takes Aim At Joel McHale's New TV Show With Doggone Catty Response (Puns Intended)

Frank with arms stretched in Animal Control
(Image credit: Fox)

The past couple of years have been as busy as ever for Joel McHale, and audiences can no doubt expect to see him promoting his new Fox show Animal Control while witnessing the latest eliminations on The Masked Singer’s newest season or while guesting on The Tonight Show or Rob Lowe’s podcast or Straight Up Steve Austin. But I doubt he’ll be invited to take a tour of PETA’s offices anytime soon, as the organization released a statement about his new comedy’s use of real animals while filming, and I’d be lion if I said it was super positive and kind to McHale’s career. 

PETA, which already had gripes with Animal Control over all of the zoological representation on display for the show’s Super Bowl ad, which featured dogs, a ferret, some ostriches and a cougar, while teasing a real bear showing up later in its first season. A statement was issued following the series premiere’s debut on Fox, and one can’t help but think the abundant snark therein, which would have felt at home coming out of McHale’s Community character Jeff Winger, may have watered down the sincerity of the message. According to Debbie Metzler, PETA’s Foundation Director of Captive Animal Welfare (with the italicized words coming straight from the release):

  • Animal Control is a sickening soup of animal exploitation that has PETA questioning whether Joel McHale’s been living under a rock. He either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that it’s 2023 and that CGI, VFX, and other humane forms of technology should be used, instead of dragging abused animals onto TV and film sets. Read the room, Joel McFail: Animals aren’t the key to your comeback, and neither is this sad show.

Don’t get me wrong: if the entire point was to embody a Joel McHale character, or the sarcasm-embracing persona that the actor himself puts out there, then Metzler’s approach might get a polite golf clap. Six words in, there’s a reference to his work hosting The Soup, which ended in 2015, and then the assumption that it’s McHale who doesn’t know what year it is. The kicker, of course, is the Dad-joke of an insult “Joel McFail,” which precedes the idea that this “sad” show is meant to be the actor’s comeback.

Should Fans Be Worried About Animal Control's Future?

It’s a bit weird for a PETA exec to have used this statement to go after the new comedy for suspected animal-related transgressions that aren’t specified in any way beyond the organization’s general stance on Hollywood productions. Only to then use roughly the same amount of words just to specifically insult arguably the show’s most recognizable lead actor. (McHale isn’t one of the show’s three creators, though he does serve in an executive producer capacity.)

I get that the org is coming off of championing The Walking Dead for its (often comedic) CGI animals, and that it’s spent the early part of 2023 taking aim at Kylie Jenner’s lion-headed look and Dakota Johnson’s Gucci modeling. So maybe not everyone there has been too busy to notice Joel McHale seemingly being everywhere at once in the last two years, from recurring in the cast of AMC’s hit dramedy The Bear to showing off his universe-expanding superhero efforts in the now-concluded Stargirl to one-off roles in Love, Death & Robots and American Housewife. Not to mention hosting the cooking competition series Celebrity Beef, appearing in 75% of currently airing game shows, being a regular in morning and late-night talk shows, being a go-to podcast guest/actor, and lending his vocal talents to video games such as Area Man Lives and Fortnite.

Frank and Fred helping man with snake around his neck in Animal Control

(Image credit: Fox)

The broad comedy that fuels Animal Control’s hijinks may not be everyone’s cup of tea, as perhaps exemplified by its 67% critics score and 48% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, but it’s not like it’s a lofty shot at regaining the Hollywood spotlight he once held so dear. It's more of an avenue to stardom for the rest of the cast more so than McHale himself, but nobody else suffered PETA's verbal smackdown. 

Is there a good point to be made in questioning why the show is leaning on using real animals so heavily at a point when animal cruelty in the entertainment sector has been put into focus? Certainly. And I'm sure that more than just PETA would raise a fuss if someone claimed such cruelty was taking place on the sets of Animal Control. But would other organizations go after McHale personally in the same breath? Probably not. Unless that organization is Greendale Community College. 

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.